Africa, Morocco

Monkey meets Morocco

No Comments 17 July 2010

Monkey meets Morocco

The Monkey visited Morocco in April of 1996. Until 2005 when he visited Tunisia, this was his only visit to the African continent. It was also the Monkey’s first foray into the Islamic world, which fascinated him (perhaps so much so that he neglected to take very many photos!).


Morocco’s strategic location at the mouth of the Mediterranean and the northwest corner of Africa have given it a complex and rich history. It has been a crossroads of cultures for centuries and today constitutes a unique multicultural environment.The Monkey arrived by ferry in Tangier and made his way south by train, stopping in Asilah, a gorgeous former Portuguese colony with intact city walls overlooking the Atlantic. Lamentably, the Monkey didn’t get a photograph in Asilah.

The Monkey then continued southward to the Moroccan capital, Rabat. From there he made for Casablanca and Marrakech. While the Monkey’s snapshots from his trip are minimal, he has every intention to return to Morocco in the near future for much more exploration. Until then, the Monkey wants you to enjoy his few Moroccan photos.

Rabat Chellah Walls
The Monkey at the gates to the Chellah Necropolis in Rabat. The site dates from ancient times, and contains Roman ruins. But the chief attraction of the Chellah are its eerily abandoned Islamic remnants, including the tomb of the 14th Century Sultan Abou El Hassan, who ruled much of modern-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Rabat Kasbah ocean view
The Monkey takes in the scenery in Rabat’s Kasbah des Oudaïas. A Kasbah (or Casbah) is simply a fortified palace or section of an Arab town. Rabat’s Kasbah dates from the 11th and 12th Century, and has a serene view out over the Bou Regreg River and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The land across the river is Salé, once a rival to Rabat but now more of a suburb to the capital.

Chellah interior, Rabat, Morocco
Inside the Chellah in Rabat, the Monkey enjoys the silence of this ancient royal burial site. Just above his head in the photograph is the ruined minaret that was once covered in bright tiles. Today, a large stork’s nest sits on top of it. Beyond the minaret, a lovely North African landscape unfolds.

Lost in the overgrowth, Chellah, Rabat, Morocco
Another view of the grounds of the Chellah in Rabat, here with the Monkey resting on some overgrown foliage. The walls are just visible in the background.

Casablanca, Morocco
Casablanca. The Spanish name of this Moroccan city is forever etched in the popular consciousness from a U.S. film. The Monkey visited Casa, as they say for short, to feel the pulse of Morocco’s business and trade capital, and of course to hear Sam tickle the ivories. Sam, Rick, and the rest of the gang were nowhere to be found, but there are still touches of the French colonial and wartime espionage here and there, in restaurants, cafés, and hotel bars. Serving as Morocco’s main port, Casablanca is quite vibrant. The Monkey is hoping to return soon.

It is also home to the second largest mosque in the world, the Great Mosque of Hassan II. It is visible in the distance behind the Monkey. The mosque is a recent creation, designed by Frenchman Michel Pinseau in the 1980s, and features the tallest minaret in the world (at 200 meters), which also qualifies it as the tallest religious building in the world. The Great Mosque’s retractable-roofed interior can accommodate 20,000 worshippers, and a further 80,000 can fit in the courtyards (only the Great Mosque at Mecca can hold more people). Amazingly, the interior features a glass floor extending over the waters of the Atlantic below it, but unfortunately that sight is reserved for the faithful.

Soft drinks in Marrakech, Morocco
The Monkey escapes the heat of Marrakech by draining a few soft drinks. Back in 1996, the Monkey still occasionally imbibed the odd Coca Cola, but he’s since opted for more interesting (and less health-destructive) beverages.

Walls of Marrakech, Morocco
During his travels in Morocco, the Monkey made it as far south as the Berber-founded city of Marrakech. In Morocco, that’s not very far south. But beyond the 12th Century city walls (made of mud), the sands of the Sahara desert unfold and the majestic, snowcapped Atlas Mountains loom at a great distance. The French colonial train system ends in Marrakech, and overland travel has to be undertaken by other means. The camels in the photo above are one option…



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Morocco

   FAST FACTS


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Population:

34,343,220 (2008)

Land area:

446,300 sq. km.

Capital:

Rabat (pop. 1,220,000; 2005)

Economy:

In 2006, Morocco ranked 125th in the UNDP Human Development Index and 54th in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $1,879.12. Public debt accounts for 67.4 percent of total GDP, while 15 percent of Moroccans are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

Arabic, French

Monkey's name:

The Monkey has conflicting information regarding his Moroccan (Arabic) name. An Algerian friend tells the Monkey that his name is El Khard (el card). Other information, from the Middle East, suggests that the Arabic name for the Monkey is Maimun (my moon).

Fun fact:

Morocco asserts a claim on the large territory of Western Sahara to its south. Formerly a Spanish colony, the Western Sahara is one of the largest non-state areas left on the planet. After the Spanish withdrawal in 1976, Mauritania and Morocco took leading roles in the running of the territory. When the Western Saharan Polisario nationalist guerrillas took up arms against their occupying neighbors, Mauritania quickly ceded control of its portion of Western Sahara to Morocco. Meanwhile, the Polisario front and Moroccan troops continued fighting until a UN-brokered cease-fire in 1991, though the status of the Western Sahara remains ambiguous.



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